At first glance, Cornfox and Brothers’ latest venture, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm bears a striking resemblance to its source of inspiration, The Legend of Zelda series. The protagonist is a silent knight dressed in a familiar shade of teal, there’s an abundance of pots to smash, and a health gauge of hearts in the corner.
The developers of the game don’t hide the fact that the game borrows elements from a medley of iconic past titles. Initially released as an exclusive to Apple Arcade, Oceanhorn 2 has made its way onto the Nintendo Switch. This begs the question; how does it fare on the console home to the Zelda-franchise?
Knights to See You
The game opens up to a scene showing the realm of Oceanhorn 2 engulfed in chaos. A narrator tells us that what we see is currently taking place and the events we’re about to experience have already taken place. Bearing that in mind, we see the protagonist as a baby being handed off to his father figure, Master Mayfair.
The story of Oceanhorn 2 is your standard RPG tale following the journey of the unnamed protagonist. After undergoing knighthood, must unite the world of Gaia and go up against the Warlock Mesmeroth and his Dark Army. Taking place a thousand years before the first game, Oceanhorn 2 takes place in a fantasy environment with some advanced technology thrown in for flair.
Accompanying us on our journey are Gen, the hero’s friend since his days of youth, and Trin, a pilot of royal origins from the city of Arcadia. It helps that the characters are voice acted, making travel a little more breezy. In contrast, when things boil down to the actual plot of Oceanhorn however, things are less than ideal. While the premise of Oceanhorn holds a lot of promise, it doesn’t quite deliver what you’d expect it to. The characters, especially our party members, aren’t fleshed out enough and barely piqued my interest.
By the time you reach the conclusion of the game, you’re left with a lot of gaping plot holes and more questions than answers than you bargained for. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact that I hadn’t played the original Oceanhorn, but even so, the game ended on an unsatisfactory note for me. On the flip side, the exploration portion of Oceanhorn is well executed. There’s nothing like good old fashioned video game adventure through ships and planes.
Zelda, But With Guns
While the game may be taking quite a few pages from Zelda’s book, Oceanhorn 2’s combat is more of the likes of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, rather than the more recent Breath of the Wild. You’re limited to attacking and rolling, and the jumping is pretty much out of the question. There is, however, a stamina bar, however, its addition seemed a bit forced as I felt combat could make do without it.
For some spice, there are some shooter elements in the form of the hero’s Caster Gun, although the controls for it aren’t executed as well as I’d like for it to be. There’s a lack of a manual lock-on, whether that be for shooting or just attacking with your sword. This makes it a real pain when you have to use the right control stick to get a good aim. It’s a real lost opportunity to make good use of the Switch’s gyro controls, especially for something as essential as aiming your gun.
There’s an assortment of spells to choose from and weapons such as hooks and bombs (sound familiar) as well as dungeons with a good challenge to them, but never excruciatingly so. A good number of items can be found in every nook and cranny, such as coins and ammo for your gun, which makes smashing pots and barrels a familiar delight.
Where the game lacks severely is in its party members. They’re meant to be there for support as one would expect, but the way Oceanhorn 2 has it implemented is rather odd. The game asks you to delegate work to your companions making them seem more like your minions. However, they don’t do a very good job of doing their tasks, nor assisting you in battle. Most of the time they’re more of deadweight rather than any actual help, and it seems like they’re shoehorned into helping you out in dungeons with levers and buttons.
Shiver Me Timbers
Looks-wise, the game’s vistas look like a work of art on the Switch, both in handheld and docked mode. The lighting effects are astounding and the seas are just begging to swim in. Considering the fact that Oceanhorn 2 was meant for mobile devices, the developers have done a great job porting it onto the Switch.
For all the efforts that have been put into the environments, the character models themselves are a bit lacking. The protagonist and his pals seem to look fine at a once-over, but when you see them in action they can feel rather stiff. What was even more distracting was the eye movements of the characters. The fact that their eyes will wander off to somewhere else rather than focus on what they’re meant to can be a bit distracting at times. On top of that, the characters aren’t very expressive which can make the voice acting seem like a mismatch at times.
The music and sound design of Oceanhorn 2 is something I have no qualms about. The soundtrack is pleasant while not too distracting from the action, and fits the tone of the game perfectly. As mentioned earlier, the game includes voice acting, and that too it being pretty solid. The protagonist himself is a man of few words, however.
Oceanhorn 2 was a remarkable feat on mobile devices. However, on the Switch, it pales when compared to the games it takes inspiration from. While it imitates mechanics from various Legend of Zelda titles, more often than not, it doesn’t hold up to or improve on the original. By all means, it’s still a decent game with some scenic landscapes and fun exploration involved and will last you a good 12-15 hours of playtime.